Ernakulam district is drenched in summer rains, even before the onset of monsoon. The ponds, lakes and streams across the district are overflowing and it is ideal time for some people to make their catch. The fisheries department has intensified inspections to track down people engaging in Ootha fishing during this heavy rainy season. Fishing during ‘Ootha’ has been declared illegal now as freshwater fish varieties are on the brink of extinction.

‘Ootha’ refers to the migration of fish for breeding in June and July, which is the beginning of the southwest monsoon. Fishes from the river and other water bodies will start appearing in low-lying fields, small creeks and streams to lay their eggs in the fresh rain. The fish will mostly stay idle and will not swim away as their stomachs are full of eggs.

Fishing is widespread during the rainy season. The Kerala Aquaculture and Inland Fisheries Act prohibits catching fish during the breeding season by obstructing traffic routes and using illegal equipment. If punished, this can lead to a fine of Rs 15,000 and imprisonment of up to 6 months. Fisheries, Revenue, Police and Local Government bodies can take action in this matter.

The Department of Fisheries estimates that around 60 species of edible fish and 19 species of non-edible fish are threatened with extinction due to fishing during this season. The Ootha fishing process is considered the most threatening, as it uses a trap and cages-like setup to catch all fish in one go.